What Happened In 2014: No matter what the year-end numbers say, J.P. Howell held the bullpen together for the first half of 2014. With Kenley Jansen struggling through a string of bad luck, Howell was one of the few effective options the Dodgers could turn to, and it reached the point that by the end of June we just felt like thanking him. Heck, people even wanted him to make the All-Star team. The feeling was understandable, as from the start of the season until Sep. 10, Howell posted a 1.17 ERA in 46 innings.
Unfortunately, in the last four games of the season, Howell surrendered seven runs in three innings. During the playoffs, after he surrendered a game-tying two-run homer before being bailed out by Matt Kemp…
…we were asking what the heck was wrong with him.
The reality is that unlike Jansen, who suffered from abnormally high BABIP against, Howell was the beneficiary of a .236 BABIP against, which was way below his norm. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a rock-solid relief option overall, but it did mean he was never as good as his 1.17 ERA stretch said he was.
Down the stretch and in the playoffs was just a very, very, very unfortunate time for everything to start catching up to him.
2015 Status: J.P. Howell will make $4 million in the second year of his two-year contract, and he has a $6.25 million team option for 2016 with a $250,000 buyout. However, that option will become a player option if he pitches 52 games in 2015 as long as he doesn’t finish the year on the DL.
Howell projects to settle into the 3.3-3.5 ERA range next year, which would be about in line with his 2014 peripherals. The regression shouldn’t be a problem as long as he’s allowed to remain a middle reliever in 2015 instead of being forced into a setup role like last year.